Caryn Desai

caryn desaiGrowing up in Philadelphia, Caryn Desai (lower case of her own choosing) knew she was an artist.  Even in her early stages, Caryn remembers her family watching television while she was self-engaged with arts and crafts projects, learning to see and reach beyond what was in front of her.  The church choir and community theatre nurtured her dreams while giving Caryn early opportunities to stretch her wings.

Even though life’s vagaries presented some early challenges, Caryn eventually found herself on the west coast, going to school at Long Beach City College. Upon earning an associate degree in acting and theatre, it was then off to study at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London.  Upon her return, she continued on to Cal State Long Beach, where she received a bachelor’s degree in acting and directing. Not yet done, UC Irvine was next, where she went on to earn an MFA in Directing.

If you understand a life in theatre, the work begins the first time you realized that theatre is where you belong, and your education doesn’t stop till you do. So while working on projects and attaching to various organizations, Shashim Desai the founder and artistic director of International City Theatre, solicited Caryn to join his staff.  Having been one of her instructors, Shashim saw the dynamic potential in Caryn and kept sweetening the offer to have her join the company.

Though somewhat reluctant at first, Caryn was committed when directing was offered as part of the package. When opportunity arose, Caryn received a full fellowship for the executive program at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business as well as completing an executive program at the Hudson Institute.

Jump to today.  Caryn is now the Artistic Director of ICT, which has grown to be an impressive and award-winning company housed Within The Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center in a beautifully appointed 625 seat theatre.

Seeing theatre is not just an art form, but an integral part of our social foundation, Caryn believes theatre should have a significant voice in community dialogue. This is demonstrated on a number of levels –community participation, educational outreach and being aware that theatre is a reflection and a beacon to a community.

Not just being in Long Beach, but being a part of Long Beach is part of the mission, Caryn involves with other arts and business associations, as well as mentoring and fostering talent.  In the field of education, Caryn is responsible and participates in more than 400 3rd grade classroom visits annually as part of a sequential learning curriculum.  She believes love of the arts and the spiritual opportunity that engenders can’t be encouraged too early.

And then there’s the running of the theatre itself.  ICT has managed to operate in the black for 23 of its 27 years. That in and of itself should be a headline. A regional theatre that serves its community, and manages to pay the bills.

ICT continues to grow under Caryn’s tutelage, working to keep her subscriber base growing is an important aspect of the effort, as subscribers are a key to financial stability of a theatre company. “When you have an audience, you know you can offer something a bit more challenging,” says Caryn.  It’s part of the contract, they trust we will entertain, we trust they will attend and that allows for that magical realm in which theatre lives, the visions and aspirations of the creative process

A life in theatre is an aspiration.  It’s a life born from the passion for art and the realization that in theatre there is an application drawing upon all it.  It comes from the moment you know this is where you belong.  The rest is how to make a living while being there and giving it your all.  From discovery in Philadelphia, to now, Caryn Desai, doesn’t just live a life in theatre, she thrives in it.

About Peter Finlayson

Peter Finlayson is the Founder, Publisher and Editor-in-chief of FootLights magazine and While working on a prelaw program at the University of Michigan, he happily got involved with the theatre program. Much to his mother’s chagrin, law school never happened, but in a career spanning more than 4 decades, Peter has performed, directed or designed more than 150 productions. In his spare time, he is working on a new play. You can follow him on Twitter @Thtrdog .

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